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Card Playing Chaldeans Question American Freedoms
By Paul Gori :: Sunday, February 26, 2012 :: 79838 Views :: Community & Culture, Government & Society, Chaldean Justice League

California, USA – “Chaldeans fortunate enough to make it to the land of milk and honey are getting a genuine swig of sour milk and crusty honey,” says Joseph Badoun.  California, El Cajon officials have been in debate on how to deal with Chaldean senior citizens gathering to play cards.  “This whole ordeal is a joke.  These are men in their final years, many of who are church elders, and community fathers playing cards in a community center.”

Badoun may laugh-off the ordeal, but to Chaldean seniors the issue has been unsettling and stressful.  El Cajon officials have launched aggressive crackdowns targeting Chaldeans and there gathering places.   Calls to the Mayor’s office initially went unanswered as to the reason or motive behind the crackdowns. 

As pressure mounted over the ethnically targeted raids, city officials felt it prudent to deliberate the matter in greater detail.  Noori Barka, a vice president of the Chaldean American Association says the card playing has nothing to do with gambling.

Barka reached  out to the city officials hoping  to share how cards play a role in the ancient culture.   “For you, a card is for gambling. For us, a card is for fun,” said Barka, adding that Chaldeans who wish to gamble wouldn’t waste their time in a senior citizen community center.

Badoun says if Chaldeans wanted to gamble there is no shortage of casino’s in the area.  “This is harassment.  These are elderly men who drink tea, discuss community events, and business.”
 
At first, the city council voted unanimously to ban card rooms in the heart of town. Under the new rules, only members of fraternal groups and other nonprofits can engage in card-playing, if they get a license and are located outside downtown.

The rules took effect in December 2011, but officials decided to hold off on enforcement in the face of concerns raised by Barka and several other Chaldeans active in community service.   Badoun adds that many in the community are very upset.  “Chaldeans are just as outraged as many of our neighbors who feel El Cajon is going much too far in meddling in the lives of its citizens.  Government wants to control ever act of your life.  Government that tell you what to eat, read, play, say, and study is a sign of tyranny.  We know, we faced it for decades in Iraq.”

In the past few weeks city officials agreed to ease up on their new rules governing card rooms, but were divided over how best to regulate the establishments in the long run.

Council members Bob McClellan and Bill Wells, argued that the city is going overboard and that card-playing should still be allowed at restaurants and other for-profit operations. City officials say there are 10 known establishments in town that provide room for table games. Most have a large Chaldean clientele.


El Cajon councilman Gary Kendrick and the two other council colleagues worried that opening to door to for-profit card rooms would hurts the city's public image in the long run. "I'm concerned that 10, 20 years in the future, we end up with card rooms all up and down Main Street and Magnolia Avenue," he said.
Many at the council meeting took offense at the mayor's sweeping remarks that businesses that allow card-playing also allow gambling coupled with previous sentiments that Chaldean women were home alone. 

The vote of 3-2 vote by the city council backed off a decision late last year to outlaw card-playing activities among nonprofit groups in the central business district. The city still plans, however, to enforce a ban on card tables at for-profit operations citywide.

Tuesday's vote came as good news to the Chaldean American Association, operators of the Crystal Ballroom, a private, nonprofit social club. The club is within the central area that was targeted in the initial ban.
 

St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.